Premier credits Saskatchewan pandemic policy. Party by-election upset

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe credits his government’s “getting back together” approach to the pandemic for the staggering upheaval in a by-election Tuesday in the province’s north.

Jim Lemaigre of the Saskatchewan Party defeated Georgina Jolibois of the NDP, a former MP, and two other candidates to win Tuesday’s vote in Athabasca – a riding the Saskatchewan Party has never held before.

Following a preliminary ballot count, Lemaigre had 1,146 votes (51.4%) of the votes counted so far, while Jolibois had 900 votes (40.4%).

The NDP had held the seat since 1998, and it was only ever held by the NDP, CCF or Liberals.

Calling the Saskatchewan Party’s victory “historic”, Moe told reporters on Wednesday that it was the “divisive policies” of other parties that contributed to his party’s victory.

“When you look at this by-election and the results of this by-election, it really highlights the different approaches that we see with political parties in this province,” Moe said.

In a statement on the by-election released Wednesday, Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili did not explain why he believed his party lost the seat.

Meili praised Lemaigre and said he will have to be a “dissident voice within his own government”.

“Whether it’s a lack of cellphone coverage, a lack of available health services, or crumbling roads, Northerners need a strong advocate in the Legislative Assembly to make their voices heard. voice in Regina,” Meili said.

Moe said Lemaigre will be a “very strong voice” for the North in the Saskatchewan Party government.

“I think he will also be a very strong voice in government in terms of how we continue on the path of reconciliation with our natives, the indigenous peoples of our province,” Moe said.

Former MP blames ‘horribly low’ turnout for NDP loss

Longtime NDP MP Buckley Belanger created the need for a by-election when he resigned his seat last summer to run federally.

“I’m not holding my breath for the Sask. Party to do anything important [for the north]”said Belanger.

However, Bélanger said that for Lemaigre to prove his worth as a member of the ruling party, as he argued during the campaign, communities in northwest Saskatchewan will need to have their forest rights restored, among other things.

“If you really want to make a difference in the North, bring NORTEP back. Help these communities that have problems with illegal drug use,” Belanger said.

Bélanger also doesn’t believe pandemic politics has anything to do with the outcome.

“Absolutely not. Moe fumbled the Day 1 COVID response, and he knows it,” Belanger said. “Trying to cover it up with electoral success in Athabasca… well, good luck with that.”

Bélanger said the NDP lost due to “extremely” low turnout.

“The turnout was horribly low,” he said. “A lot of other voters — especially NDP voters — stayed home.

“And I have no idea why they stayed home.”

He said there needed to be easier and more convenient ways for people to vote and suggested curbside voting options.

With a relatively low number of ballots remaining to be counted, Elections Saskatchewan said about 24% of registered voters cast ballots in the by-election, up from nearly 34% in the last general election in Athabasca.

In Tuesday’s preliminary tally, the Saskatchewan Party got a few dozen votes in this week’s by-election compared to what it had in Athabasca in the 2020 provincial election, while the NDP lost more than 800.

The story of the ‘NDP collapse’ of a by-election: political scientist

Greg Poelzer, a political scientist at the University of Saskatchewan, said the election result came as a surprise to many, especially since the NDP had a very experienced “tremendous politician” in Jolibois.

“You would have thought the North riding should have been a slam dunk for the NDP,” he said.

Poelzer said the Saskatchewan Party’s numbers in the by-election were quite similar to those in the 2020 election, so he had no trouble getting his vote despite the low turnout. global.

“So I think the story is really about the collapse of the NDP more than anything else,” he said.

Poelzer said the victory in the by-elections represents an opportunity for the ruling party.

“If they paid more attention and had future policy developments and initiatives, it would show that Northerners and Indigenous communities are worth considering the Sask. Party moving forward,” did he declare.

In a social media post on Wednesday, Jolibois said she was returning to her duties as mayor of La Loche.

“I am proud of my record as the longest-serving mayor of La Loche,” she said. “Again, thank you to everyone who believes in my leadership style.”

The Premier said Lemaigre would be sworn in when the Legislative Assembly returns in the spring.

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